It’s Mother’s Day time again. This time last year, I was doing everything I could think of to honor and care for my mother in law, who was dying with small cell lung cancer. Cooking mostly, since that’s one thing I can do well when I am stressed, and she sure did like my soups.
I can remember a time in our marriage when I was afraid to have a relationship with her. We were so different! She liked to smoke; I did not. She liked to drink coffee and talk; I preferred to be alone and play my piano. But we did eventually find common ground. Things like a mutual love for auctions, antiques, and the restoration of furniture, the shared love of Dayton, Michele, Sarah, and Josh. And I came to have deep respect for her ability to paint and to wallpaper. She could turn any home into a world of well matched colors and designs. Although she could not see it in herself, my mother in law had a lot of artistic talent and style.
In that first year, I realized that although I did not have need of another mother, I wanted to have a good relationship with this woman who gave birth to my husband. And in order to do that, I had to learn to respect her ways of looking at life, and seek to understand her perspective when it differed from mine. I learned to drink coffee and to talk! And at times, I simply listened as she shared her sometimes very strong feelings about life and family.
I cannot say that these stages of growth came easily. But I found my role model and inspiration from the book of Ruth. Ruth was the daughter in law of Naomi, a sad woman whose husband and two sons had died while living in a foreign land. Naomi had turned bitter with grief. But Ruth showed to her the meaning of love and friendship as she left her own mother and homeland to travel back to Israel with Naomi, and worked in the fields to provide for her.
It’s never easy walking through the paths of grief and poverty for ourselves, let alone with another. Ruth didn’t have to do it. Her covenant of marriage to Naomi’s son had ended with his death. God blessed Ruth’s choice in the end of the story by providing another husband for her through Naomi’s kinsman Boaz. And through this union came a son, Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of King David, who was the forefather of Jesus.
As I have traveled through 17 years of our marriage , I have had the awesome privilege of seeing her grow into a beautiful Christlike mother who prayed for her children and grandchildren, faithfully attended her church, and enjoyed having deep theological discussions with her son. Though her body grew more frail through cancer, her spirit and zest for life got stronger with every passing day.
Thanks, mom, for teaching me how to sit, talk, listen, live, die, and hope in Christ for the life to come.
During our first year of marriage, I found a picture with a poem, and purchased it for her, hoping that she would feel honored:
I received the day I wed your son;
and I just want to thank you,
Mom, for the loving things you’ve done.
You’ve given me a gracious
man with whom to share my life;
you are his lovely mother, I am his lucky wife.
You used to pat his little head
and now I hold his hand; You raised in love
a little boy, and then gave me a man.